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Mich. court halts ruling on benefits to same sex

State constitution, contracts at odds

LANSING, Mich. -- The Michigan Court of Appeals yesterday temporarily halted a ruling that allowed governments and public universities to provide health insurance to the partners of gay employees.

The dispute goes back to Michigan voters' approval almost a year ago of a constitutional amendment that made the union between a man and a woman the only agreement recognized as a marriage ''or similar union for any purpose."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan sued, and Ingham County Circuit Judge Joyce Draganchuk ruled in late September that public-sector employers can offer domestic partner benefits without violating the amendment.

Republican State Attorney General Mike Cox is now appealing that ruling, and he had asked the appeals court to delay Draganchuk's decision until the higher court decides the issue.

Cox and conservative groups argue that the constitutional amendment prohibited Kalamazoo and other public employers from providing same-sex benefits in future contracts.

A spokeswoman for Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm said Granholm was disappointed with the delay.

Health benefits were also included in labor contracts negotiated with state employees. Granholm put the benefits on hold while awaiting the ruling, but now she is asking the state Civil Service Commission to approve them.

The parties' legal briefs are due in early December.

The ACLU is representing 21 gay couples in the lawsuit.

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